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Fees affect poor black students most: Protester

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Rising fees at the Stellenbosch University, and other tertiary institutions around South Africa, affect all students but especially poor black students.

This was the message from a protesting student addressing a crowd at the Rooiplein at Stellenbosch on Wednesday, one of a number of protests against rising university fees taking place around South Africa.

“Yesterday was the worst day for me at this university. We were peaceful and non-violent. Students were emotionally traumatised when they were forcibly removed,” the speaker said.

“They had [an] opportunity to change the narrative, but instead they instilled fear.”

The crowd were earlier told they would be addressed by Stellenbosch student representative council (SRC) chairperson Axolile Qina, which was met by boos.

When Qina got ready to address the group, he was jeered by protesting students.

‘This is what happens when democracy fails’

“All students should have access to education and equal opportunities,” Qina said.

He called for a meeting between all SRCs and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to discuss the issue of university fees.

The crowd was also told the SA Students Congress (Sasco) would also address them. This was met with cheering and singing.

Sasco representative Lwazi Phakade later told those assembled: “I have made it clear we will not accept any increase. Mostly black students find that the colour of their skin decides your class in society. ”

“Think of single parent who earns less than R5 000 who has to keep up with the increases. We come from those backgrounds.”

Another speaker, after Phakade, told the crowd: “This is what happens when democracy fails. We are being followed by police who are supposed to be our guardians.”

Arrival of more students

The student was followed by peer Faith Pienaar, who said, “At this place you must learn to become an advocate for others. Even if you are privileged and can afford it.”

Meanwhile in Cape Town, hundreds of protesting University of Cape Town (UCT) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology students descended on Parliament after noon ahead of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s mid-term budget speech.

UCT protesters now intent on making their way to parly to disrupt mid-term budget review. #NationalShutDown
— Cape Times (@CapeTimesSA) October 21, 2015

Prior to the arrival of the hundreds of students, a smaller group of protesting students and workers outside Parliament were singing “Nanku Blade uyabaleka, emzabalazweni” (“Blade is running away during the struggle”).

Students sought to meet with Nzimande, who on Tuesday following a marathon meeting with university vice-chancellors proposed a 6% cap on university fee hikes for 2016.

However, protesting students rejected this proposal and have demanded a 0% increase.

At Parliament, police tape had been put up as police awaited the arrival of more students, many of whom were catching Jammie Shuttles from UCT.

Rubber bullets

The protests flared up after students at the University of the Witwatersrand last week protested against a 10.5% fee increase for the 2016 academic year.

Protests at Wits sparked protests on campuses across South Africa, including Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, the University of Pretoria, the University of Fort Hare, and the Tshwane University of Technology.

Protests were also expected to take place on Wednesday at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the University of the Western Cape.

The University of the Free State closed all three of its campuses on Wednesday, with varsity management and the student representative council meeting on Tuesday to discuss next year’s fees.

At NMMU, police fired rubber bullets at protesting students throwing stones at the institution on Wednesday, according to police spokesperson Brigadier Mardinda Mills.

She said no one was arrested or injured.

Sasco has called on all students to embark on a nationwide mass action on Wednesday against fee increments until student demands were met. News24

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